This Stunning Ranch Resort in West Texas Has 13,000 Acres of Land to Spread Out in Luxury

Sprawled-out spaces, a private airport, and plenty of room to roam combine for the ultimate ranch experience.

Exterior of JL Bar Ranch
Photo: JL Bar Ranch

Swaying back and forth in our front-porch rocking chairs, we looked out across the manicured terrain in front of us, which included twisting mesquite trees and yuccas and live oak trees shading a small pond. Out farther past our cabin and ranch paths, raw, wild, West Texas emerged with tall grass, prickly pear cacti, and clumps of trees coming together to create one large canopy far off in the distance. It was amazing that every speck of land we could see was part of JL Bar Ranch, Resort and Spa, and we sat in awe as we watched the landscape turn from tangerine to pink to maroon as the sun set.

Located in Sonora, Texas, JL Bar Ranch, Resort and Spa offers solitude and luxury on 13,000 sprawling acres. You'll find plenty of room to roam around and explore — a treat for those looking to escape the hustle of the city or for anyone looking to vacation amidst nature. An array of activities appeals to both nature enthusiasts and epicureans. My husband and I zipped across dirt roads and rocky fields on ATVs, down through the rock quarry and past herds of black angus cattle. We squished cacti with our tires and pointed out deer scurrying off into thick juniper stands.

Though the property stopped offering ATV outings after our visit, our thrilling adventure gave us the sense that we'd left Texas and wound up in a vast, foreign savanna. "We've had guests say that if you close your eyes, don't think about where you are, and open them again, it looks like you could be in South Africa," says Ollie Bushula, a consultant to the ranch.

Lobby of the JL Bar Ranch
JL Bar Ranch

We were pleasantly surprised with the horse psychology class, which consisted of learning about being comfortable around horses and the basics of their behavior. Equine experts Jon Joseph and Sydney Béïque brought out two of their world-class horses, Josephine and Chexamillion, for us to meet. After petting them — and taking a quick trot around the round pen with Chexamillion — we left feeling a little less like city folk and a bit more Texan, despite both being born and raised in the state.

On a chilly and windy afternoon, we swapped our planned activities, skeet shooting and archery lessons, for an indoor activity to get out of the elements and warm up. The hotel's general manager quickly put together a wine tasting for us at the bar, again with Jon and Sydney — did I mention that before moving to the ranch, they lived on a 500-acre vineyard in Napa, and that Sydney is a level 2 sommelier with connections at the some of the best vineyards and wineries in the country?

Aside from the wine tasting, one of our other favorite ways to unwind turned out to be a visit to the spa, where we went completely zen during massages that worked out all of our knots and stress-induced tight muscles. I recommend visiting the spa early on, to loosen up for outdoor adventures.

picnic in Texas bluebonnets
JL Bar Ranch

And in true Southern hospitality, we never went hungry in between all of our exploring. Breakfasts meant everything from yogurt parfaits and smoothies to bacon and sausage breakfast tacos and divine chicken-fried steak Benedict. Lunches were hearty salads, brisket and chicken sandwiches, juicy burgers, and even a spread-out pizza party on the pavilion where we built our own pizzas for the brick oven. Dinners were luxurious experiences, with themed nights like "butcher block Thursdays" and "fajita Fridays," plus regular menu nights where we splurged on Akaushi beef tenderloin and Chilean sea bass, chicken-fried quail, and desserts like crème brûlée and sopapillas, all paired with impressive wines and cocktails. Our nights weren't complete, though, until we had post-dinner cocktails back in the bar, followed by s'mores roasted by the pool.

Bluebonnet cocktail with jalapeno
JL Bar Ranch

Away from the other accommodations this Southern resort offers, Archer's Nest is a private villa located on the original homesetead headquarters with its own private pool and pool house, theater room, and space for up to 14 people. The villa has its own gourmet kitchen, but guests are able to hire a private chef or dine at the main lodge if desired. They also have access to all of the ranch and spa facilities, plus the option for a private butler.

The private, fixed-based operator airport is another great perk that allows guests to avoid busy airports.

Private Airplane Hanger at JL Bar Ranch
JL Bar Ranch

They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and at JL Bar Ranch, that sentiment certainly rings true in the form of adventure, grub, and hospitality. As we loaded our luggage for our ride back home, we bid adieu to every staff member — we were now all on a first-name basis — while promising to return and making plans for our next trip down. "Come back soon for the wildflowers and animal babies!" said Kylie. "Next time we'll go stargazing," Ollie affirmed.

I looked in the rear-view mirror as hands waved through the air, giving us one more Texas-sized goodbye. "Hey," said my husband, "Isn't our anniversary on a weekend this year?"

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